Islam and Elections
2004 Background Paper (Continued)
The following list describes some of the practical questions that need to be considered in devising electoral systems, whether in a Muslim country or elsewhere:
- What elections are needed? Should the head of government be elected? The legislature? An advisory council? Should elections be national, or also provincial and municipal? In countries that have little familiarity with elections, should elections at the municipal, provincial, and national levels be instituted at the same time? How frequently should elections at the various levels be held?
- If the head of government is elected directly by the voters, should the office be filled at the same time as the election of the legislature? Should the term of office be the same for the head of government and for legislators? Should there be limits on the length of time elected officials may serve?
- Should political parties be allowed? If so, how should they be defined and recognized? If not, should there be some other way of organizing or recognizing the interests of specific groups of voters? What provisions should be put in place to keep the
activities of parties (or other interest groups) distinct from the activities of elected officials?
- Should the nomination of candidates for office be determined by political parties, by the government, or by a separate authority? If it is determined by parties, should the parties be required to follow set rules? Who should set the rules? If candidates are determined by government action, what governing body should have that responsibility, and how can that
responsibility be insulated from the influence of the party or officials currently in power? If qualifications for nomination are reviewed by a separate authority, how should that authority be constituted?
- If electoral campaigns are instituted, what sort of rules should there be concerning (a) their length and (b) expenditures by parties and candidates. Should parties and candidates have equal access to media? Should the press be free to report on campaigns in any way they see fit?
- How best can the interests of minority groups, whether religious, ethnic, or linguistic, be protected through the electoral system? Should special legislative seats be reserved for minorities or for women? If not, how can the rights and interests of women best be protected in an
- Should limitations be set on the governing philosophy of political parties or should all political viewpoints enjoy freedom of expression? Should all parties and candidates running for electoral office be required to endorse the constitutional form of the state, whether it be a secular republic, a monarchy, an Islamic republic, or a pluralist republic? Should it be possible for a party with a large electoral majority to change the constitutional form of the state?
- How should the electorate be defined? At what age should voting begin? Should voters be required to have a certain degree of education or property? Can an electoral system be deemed fair if religious, ethnic, or linguistic groups are excluded from the electorate?
- Under what circumstances, if any, should it be possible for a ruler or
elected head of state to cancel elections or nullify their results? Should
electoral institutions be suspended during states of emergency or in times
- In a governmental system in which the head of state is not elected, what powers should elected legislators or officials have with respect to that head of state?
- Are there basic rights or freedoms, such as freedom of speech, freedom
of religion, and/or freedom of movement and assembly, that should not be
subject to restriction by an elected government?
Elections: The Current Situation Back to the top.
A survey of twenty-four countries with Muslim majority populations reveals
a great diversity of electoral systems. At the executive level, twelve countries
select chief executives by popular vote. In several cases, however, i.e. Syria,
Uzbekistan, and Tunisia, there was no significant opposition in the latest
elections. In five cases, a hereditary ruler exercises the power of chief
executive. In four cases (including the president of Turkey), the legislative
assembly elects the chief executive. In three cases (including the prime minister
of Turkey), the chief executive is the leader of the party with the largest
representation in the legislative assembly. One country, Libya, does not have
a constitutional chief executive.